If enthusiasm alone could make every Lake Catholic alum magically appear on campus, Jeff Fenner might be the guy to do it. As the new president of the Lake Catholic Alumni Association, he is determined to get the word out that it’s a new day for the group — and more specifically, that alums are encouraged to come back and join in.
“Our goal is to engage alumni from all decades in what’s going on at Lake today,” Fenner said. “More than anything, we want to recruit involvement by younger alums — those who graduated less than 20 years ago; younger alums are the future.”
Fenner graduated from Lake Catholic 35 years ago and his class will celebrate that event this summer. “Those who haven’t been back in a while will be amazed at how the school has changed — physically, but also the whole direction is different,” Fenner said. He extols Lake’s continual evolution to meet what today’s students need — to go to college, to find a career, to build a good life, and to grow as Catholics. “We need alumni to support what the administration and teachers are doing, and focus on the positive energy being created. Lake Catholic is producing some really good kids and alumni can help with that.”
High school was a great time in Fenner’s life — he did well in class, served on the student council, and was an outstanding member of the baseball team. His prowess at that sport earned him a scholarship to Cleveland State, where he played for four years. He graduated with a degree in communications focusing on journalism, along with a minor in sports administration. That minor led to a one-year internship with the Cleveland Browns. He would have loved to stay in the NFL, but in that pre-social media era, jobs were few and hard to find. Instead, his communications degree prompted a reply to an ad for a business-to-business magazine editor.
“I was sure it was Fortune or Forbes; turned out it was a pest industry trade magazine! Who wouldn’t want to write about rats!” He was hired in the spring of 1991 and it turned out to be a great fit. “It was a small, family-owned company and I was able to learn a lot.” The owner was a great entrepreneur and he encouraged all the staff to take chances, saying it was okay to fail even if it cost a little money. Fenner stayed there 15 years and met his future wife, Cindy, in the process.
In 2009, Jeff and Cindy went out on their own, founding B Communications, which specializes in content marketing and communications solutions. “Cindy is not a Lake Catholic alum, but she has certainly heard a lot about it and we are always running into someone who went there or has a connection to the school. It’s funny how often that happens — and not just around Mentor.”
Not surprisingly, their son Brendan attended Lake Catholic, graduating in 2017; he now attends Ohio University. As the parent of a Lake student — and a member of the school’s advisory board since 2012 — Fenner became deeply engaged in the school again. In his new role as alumni association president, he will work with fellow members this summer on strategic planning for the years ahead.
“At this point, our group has two points of emphasis. First, supporting the senior project, where seniors are given a week to shadow someone in the professional world. This past semester, we connected more than a dozen seniors with alums who’d indicated a willingness to serve as mentors. We want to expand the number of matches in the years ahead.
“Second, we’re relaunching a legacy scholarship program for students whose parents are alumni. For the 2019-20 school year, we plan to award four $1,000 scholarships: one each to a freshman, a sophomore, a junior, and a senior. Eventually, we hope to either expand the number of scholarships granted or increase the amount given.” Another aspect of the scholarship program will pay the $100 graduation fee for students whose parents are alumni.
“One of our goals is to encourage alums to send their children to Lake Catholic, so these programs are intended to smooth that path and offer an incentive. We want alumni to get to know what Lake is like today by coming back and seeing all the good things that are happening. I tell every alum I encounter, ‘There are so many ways you can help our students succeed.’”